Independent Agency BSSP Embraces the Future

Agencies, vendors, and service providers facing discontinuous change in the advertising industry can react in two ways. They can shake their heads at disruption as digital outpaces print and TV, and data and science replace “faith-based” models. Or they can seize the moment, reinvent themselves, and take advantage of the emerging opportunities offered by programmatic marketing – better insights, deeper engagement, and improved ROI. At stake? Continued relevancy and business growth; an estimated $14 billion in real-time buying spend forecasted by 2016; and the $66 billion estimated for programmatic marketing platforms – the intersection of digital media, data, and analytics.

BSSP, a thriving, award-winning agency with a top-shelf client list, is definitely in the second camp. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Keith Johnston and Lynda Richardson at BSSP about their move to transform their digital media buying and standardization with a programmatic marketing platform. Here’s what they had to say.

Julie Ginches: Keith, what makes BSSP different?

Keith Johnston: We are a full-service agency that works with well-known brands such as MINI USA and Columbia Sportswear. We pride ourselves in our best-in-class creative and full-service, innovative media offering. In 2011, BSSP purchased its digital media through ad networks and publisher-direct. It was then that we began testing DSP (demand-side platform) partners vs. ad networks to see if there was a way to buy digital media more cost-efficiently while better delivering on our clients’ KPIs.

JG: Lynda, your agency went through a major strategic change recently. What problems or challenges were you facing or trying to solve?

Lynda Richardson: As an independent agency, we’re constantly on the lookout for ways to make our business smarter, better, and faster – all differentiating BSSP in a competitive market. It became clear after our initial testing of DSPs in 2011 that DSPs were the way to go. With that, we began testing different DSPs to determine which one could best deliver the optimal results for our clients. Through that process, in 2012 BSSP standardized on a single programmatic marketing platform that combines real-time media buying with data and attribution management, and took the day-to-day platform management in-house. This enabled us to lower our CPMs and pass on substantial savings to our clients.

JG: How did you select, review, and decide on a partner and platform? What were your objectives?

LR: Overall, we wanted to simplify. Through our initial research, we found that selecting a DSP made the most strategic sense for our business. Some of our specific objectives going into the review process were:

  • Access new consumer insights through data acquisition
  • Streamline media buying model – reducing costs and increasing results
  • Pass cost savings to clients with 100 percent transparency
  • Differentiate agency in a competitive market
  • Utilize data capture to bolster analytics through testing audiences, optimizing frequency levels, and gathering flighting learnings
  • Select a platform with a user-friendly interface

JG: How long did the process take? Lessons learned?

LR: The overall technology review process took the better part of a year. It was definitely a learning experience, but most lessons stemmed from knowing what we wanted to accomplish by standardizing on a single platform. For us, the main goal was to stay on the forefront of new technologies that would allow us to provide stronger media performance, better targeting insights, and media cost reductions for all of our clients.

JG: What kind of results are you seeing?

LR: Since standardizing in 2012, we’ve seen positive results for clients across the board. Clients have seen media savings in the 35 to 65 percent range. We’ve also seen an uptick in our new business pipeline due to the proven value of the way we use the platform for the benefit of our clients. This has given BSSP real market differentiation. Also, this client-centric approach appeals to both our current customers and prospects.

JG: What new value are you bringing to your clients?

KJ: Plain and simple, we are now able to provide our clients with the most transparent, cost-efficient way to buy digital media. This is possible for two reasons: 1) we use the best-performing platform, and 2) we manage the optimizations in-house. Every element is transparent to our clients – media costs, platform costs, and management costs. We have chosen to share this level of information with our clients – a strategic decision that has allowed clients full knowledge of exactly where their dollars are going and how to allocate spend to the best-performing media. This open approach is a huge competitive differentiator for us, and one that we stand behind as the best way to do business. Our clients can now better understand and engage consumers, and optimally manage their marketing investments for easier, more efficient and effective customer acquisition strategies.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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